Sunday, May 20, 2018

A Futile and Stupid Gesture

I was looking for something light-hearted to watch and thought that a movie about the great and irreverent National Lampoon would be just what I was looking for. And, indeed, the movie starts off as a highly funny comedy, telling the stoary of the Lampoon, the magazine, the radio show, Animal House and the insane cast of characters that revolved around the magazine's orbit.

Unfortunately, I wasn't familiar with the story of one of the founders, Doug Kenney, and the story soon goes sour. Breakdowns, drug abuse, infidelity and much more combine to bring the story down to its horribly depressing conclusion.

Not a bad movie and there are lots of fond memories of the out-of-control comedy that they produced, but it is not a good-time, feel-good flick. And, as the movie itself acknowledges, the cast really are nothing like the insanely famous people they are portraying, but do they really have to be?

Friday, May 18, 2018

Mick Rock - Shot! (Documentary)

Subtitled The Psycho-Spiritual Mantra of Rock, this documentary follows the life of one of rock's most iconic photographer, Mick Rock (and yes, that's his real name). Coming of age in the 60's in London, he easily fell into the new breed of interesting group of people living there at the time - post-hippies, pre-punks, unbiased and experimental. LSD opens his mind to the possibilities of photography (he has a funny story of borrowing a friend's camera while on a trip) and with Syd Barrett as his first major subject (could you ask for a better first model?), he immediately becomes thee photographer for the new breed of rock'n'rollers emerging - Bowie, Queen, Roxy Music, Lou Reed, Iggy Pop and on and on.

Rock himself narrates the film and is quite intelligent and well spoken and he makes you yearn for the days of wit'n'style in music and in pop culture in general. Of course, they show many of his most iconic photos and, of immense interest to those who care about the process, you get to see many of the contact sheets to view how the images emerged and evolved.

His drug use is discussed - in fact, a near death/overdoes experience is the centerpiece of the film - but he doesn't make a big deal of it himself. His work is what is important to him. There is an abundance of archival footage of Mick in the day, cavorting with the stars and generally having mad fun. As he says, the fact that he was friends with many of his subjects no doubt contributed to the genius of the shots.

This is truly excellent - a marvelous take on a marvelous time that will never come again and an amazing talent that captured it all. A must see for all r'n'r fans.

Thursday, May 17, 2018

Jack White - Boarding House Reach

Unlike a lot of people, I have never been either a Jack White fanatic nor have I hated the guy. I actually respect a lot of what he has done and, while not loving everything he releases, I tend to enjoy his music. I saw the White Stripes in a small club with a handful of people and thought that they were great, although I still can't quite comprehend how they managed to translate that intimacy to the superstardom that they received. So, while I don't eagerly await his every move, I also am not prejudiced against it just by who he is. That long-winded intro said, this new release is neither great nor terrible.

The opener, "Connected By Love" is a strong, soulful, big production number, with traditional Hammond organ vying with Jack's fairly unique, effected guitar work. The ballad, "Why Walk a Dog?" is another production piece, with ferocious guitars jarring the otherwise mellow vibe, "Corporation" is very funky, reminiscent of cool 70's grooves but with hints of hip-hop while "Abulia and Akrasia" is pretty much an atmospheric piece with White reciting polysyllabic beat poetry (seemingly tongue-in-cheek, but hard to know for sure) over it.

"Hypermisophoniac" is almost a Zappa-esque bit of cool jazz that's pretty hip, "Ice Station Zebra" is Jack doing rap, which means it's far from traditional, but has rhythmic, speaking vocals instead of singing, which "Over and Over and Over" has to a lesser degree, but rocks a bit more but also reminds me a bit of Zappa in some of the instrumental work and some of the backing vocals. "Everything You've Ever Learned" has Jack proselytizing over a track that builds from ambient sounds to percussion passion to intense synthesizer noise. With several drummers and percussionists, "Respect Commander" is rhythm-driven until it breaks down to just synth noodles and then turns into a modern blues number, but with synthesizer solos, as only White would provide!

An odd ballad, "Ezmerelda Steals the Show" follows and then Jack tells a childhood story in "Get in the Mind Shaft" with minimalistic backing that evolves into a mellow, kinda hip-hop-ish track. In a weird way, "What's Done is Done" reminds me of a 50's Marty Robbins, Mexican-themed  country number that evolves into gospel and then turns into something else all together - like I said, weird...It all comes to an end with a Roxy Music-esque piano ballad, "Humoresque".

White isn't likely to ever release anything that is predictable, and we wouldn't want him to, so you never know what you are going to get. I really enjoy some of this, some I think doesn't quite capture me, but all is interesting. I'll be seeing him in concert in a couple of months, so it will be compelling to see how this all translates into a live show.

recommended gigs

Friday May 18 - the Unwieldies at the Dillinger

Saturday May 19 - the New Waves at the Golden Tiki
Saturday May 19 - Ramones night at the Double Down with Jerk!, Better Broken, Three Rounds and DJ Atomic

Sunday May 20 - the Rhyolite Sound at the Bunkhouse! Afternoon show!
Sunday May 20 - the Psyatics and the Cut Throat Freak Show at the Double Down

Monday May 21 Thee Swank Bastards at the Golden Tiki

Wednesday May 23 Thee Swank Bastards at the Space and the Double Down!

Saturday May 26 - the Dead Boys with the Schizophonics at Backstage Bar and Billiards
Saturday May 26 - Shanda and the Howlers record release show at the Sand Dollar

Sunday May 27 - Fuzz Solow, Sector 7-G, Struck Nerve at Evel Pie

Monday May 28 Thee Swank Bastards at the Golden Tiki

Wednesday May 30 Thee Swank Bastards at the Double Down

Tuesday June 5 - Goldtop Bob at the Sand Dollar

Friday June 8 - the Unwieldies with Le Dominiki at the Huntridge

Friday June 29 - the Psyatics, Illicitor, Water Landing and Better Broken at the Double Down

Friday July 27 - Water Landing, War Twins, Mirror Hollow, Pet Tigers, the Scorched at the Beauty Bar

Saturday Aug 25 - Lita Ford at the Cannery

Thursday Sept 6 - Sunday Sept 9 - the Las Vegas Tiki Weekender at the Thunderbird Motel with Thee Swank Bastards, Durango 66, Franks'n'Deans and more

Friday Sept 7 - Hot Tuna at Brooklyn Bowl

Saturday Oct 27, 2018 - the Gentlemen of Four Outs at the Bunkhouse

What have I forgotten? Lemme know

Where Is the Chesterfield King ?!?! - movie starring the Chesterfield Kings


Described as Ed Wood meets A Hard Day's Night, this (purposefully) Z-grade flick shows the Chesterfield Kings runnin' rampant ala the Monkees with a heavy dose of the Three Stooges thrown in. A loose plot involves an alien who kidnaps the Kings' drummer, Mike, in an attempt to infiltrate the band and conquer the world - although how he was going to accomplish this is never revealed. As far as the band knows, Mike simply went out for a walk but they search the globe for him - a good excuse to use the footage that they took on their numerous, successful tours - in order to find him in time for the important TV show appearance that night.

The evil plot is foiled, of course - the Kings are the good guys, natch - and in the meantime we see plenty of sight gags, a guest appearance by Mark Lindsay (who lip-sync's a tune with the gang), a gaggle of slapstick comedy and a passel of hip C. Kings' tunes. The bonus material includes a short documentary of the debut of the film that contains interviews with Greg Prevost and others who worked on the film as well as a separate section with several live cuts from happenin' European shows.

I suppose that anyone who knows anything about the Kings wouldn't expect anything very serious from this endeavor and they would be right. This is goofy in the extreme and filled with 60's references and their wacky sense of humor. Good, silly fun!

Tuesday, May 15, 2018

Saucers - Second Saucer

Compiled of songs that were written back in the band's original days, Saucers (Craig Bell on bass/guitar, Malcolm Doak on keys/synth and Malcolm Marsden on guitar/harmonica , along with newcomer Kerry Miller from Deezen on drums) have reformed to finally record these long-languishing tunes. This five song EP retains much of the band's original sound, which is still fresh and riveting to this day.

Citing influences like the Velvet Underground, Kinks and Eno when initially recruiting members for Saucers, these songs certainly maintain those touchstones along with the likes of Roxy Music, the Modern Lovers and more.

Propelled by Miller's insistent drum beat, Marsden's "Security" comes off like John Cale (vocal stylings and cacophonous guitar work) fronting a rawer Roxy Music - rockin'n'hypnotic with plenty of keyboard coloring. Doak's "Half Naked and Dead" is a bit more new-wavey, with a gruesome subject matter contrasted by poppy keyboard hooks that are original yet evocative of other 80's hits. In "Tossed a Coin" there are quirky/ almost garage-y rhythms that again hints at an older song, but the synthesizer flourishes add a whole 'nother dimension. "Why Say I?" is more traditionally rockin' with harmonica, B-52-ish vocals and more cool synth. For the closer, Bell's "Where Have They Gone", we get an almost Dylan-like mid-tempo piece with great bursts of Neil Young-like noise guitar  sweeping through it - really well constructed and played.

Craig Bell has been in the center of a lot of fabulous music for a number of decades now and has no intention of stopping any time soon! Check out any of his projects for off-the-beaten-track music.


The Four Tops 50th Anniversary Anthology

I wondered why I hadn't always talked about this anthology since the Four Tops Motown hits are a big part of my childhood, but then I realized that this was a 2-CD set and I only kept the first CD since their later years are bogged down with uninteresting drek. But, this first CD is pretty damn stunning and everyone needs these 1960's tunes in their library!

Formed in 1953, this vocal group hit their stride in the 60's, as a leader of Motown's wonderful soul-pop sound. With an incredible string of hits (often written by song writing geniuses Holland-Dozier-Holland) that helped to define the era and that have been covered by innumerable artists, the Four Tops are one of the best known vocal groups of the time and lead singer Levi Stubbs is one of the more recognizable voices.

This first CD is jam-packed with amazing melodies, from their first hit, "Baby I Need Your Loving", through an incomparable list of chart-toppers - "I Can't Help Myself" (a song who's beauty never fails to give me chills), "It's the Same Old Song", "Something About You" (super catchy guitar riff here), "Shake Me, Wake Me", the stellar "Reach out, I'll Be There" and the similar sounding "Standing in the Shadows of Love" (though with hip percussion breaks), the heart-wrenching "Bernadette", their soulful version of the Left Banke's beat-pop classic "Walk Away Renee" and interpretations of "If I Were a Carpenter", "River Deep, Mountain High" and even "McArthur Park".

Of course, there is much more here - lesser hits and some that never charted - and it is all thrilling. The melodies, the harmonies, the call'n'answer and the fabulous songwriting is all stellar here. Worth the price just for this CD!

Mr. Dynamite - The Rise of James Brown (documentary movie)

Aptly titled, this documentary tells the tale of James Brown rise to stardom and his creation of his own sub-genre of soul - funk. Produced by Mick Jagger (who is also interviewed here), the story unfolds via conversations with the musicians in his band and archival footage of the man himself.

Abandoned by his parents, James grew up in a whorehouse and, like many others of his generation, sang in church before he moved into the secular world as the "hardest working man in show business". He hit big with "Please, Please, Please" but then went a few years without any hits until "Try Me" and then "Papa's Got a Brand New Bag" and his Live at the Apollo album broke it all wide open.

The dialogues with the musicians are especially enlightening as when we find out that Brown at one point had five (!) drummers and there was a revolt and the best two forced the others out and broke it all down until the created the funk beat that became Brown's calling card.

His rise to popularity was synonymous with the civil rights movement and his style and his music reflected the times, especially when he gave up his processed hair-do for an Afro and when he came out with the anthem "I'm Black and I'm Proud". Of course they re-tell the famous story of when he played Boston the night that Martin Luther King was murdered and kept the crowd under control and helped to quell what easily could have been a riot, making Boston one of the safest cities in the country that night. Brown did become somewhat involved in politics, not only endorsing Hubert Humphrey but also becoming a friend and confidant to Nixon.

Back on the musical front, the movie talks of Bootsy Collins' time in the band and how much he and his guitarist brother, Catfish, molded the evolution of the James Brown sound. Of course, this leads into Brown's influence on rap and hip-hop, down to the song "Funky Drummer" becoming the template - and sound byte - for innumerable hip-hop numbers.

The film doesn't really go much past the early 70's, but is a terrific document with amazing footage and photos (ya gotta love his scuffed knees on every live show) and incredible anecdotes from his friends and bandmates (including his drummer pulling on gun on him when James was getting out of line!). Certainly not the definitive biography of the man, but it is dynamite indeed!

Monday, May 14, 2018

Shanda and the Howlers - Hurt For Me

In their relatively short stint (so far) as a band, The Howlers have earned quite a reputation as one of the premier 50's-styled R'n'B bands around. With the talented Shanda belting out the vocals ala Big Maybelle and the Howlers, well, howlin' behind her, there's few that would dare try to compete with this combo when it comes to authentic R'n'B, blues and soul. On this, their second outing (their debut, Trouble, received rave reviews from around the globe), the group continues with their cool, groovin' soul sounds.

Opening with Luke's swingin', Motown-ish bass line, "Hold On" sounds like it should be blastin' from the radio in the early 60's. Call'n'answer chorus, swingin' beats (the drum stool is filled by Josh Miller here as regular Howler Keith recovers from his illness), subtle guitar (on this one) and perfect horns make it sound like a summer hit! They bop through "Baby, You're the One" and they swing into high gear for "Good Morning Heartache" (with Trevor giving an almost country-ish guitar solo) before the somewhat slower, soulful sing-along "Crying Over Nothing". Micah gives us a wailin' sax solo in the more rockabilly-like "Wait and See" (that also has hints of the Dave Clark Five's "Over and Over") while everyone gives their all and Shanda sings her heart out in the emotional torch song, "Hand in Hand" (dig Trevor's superlative blues guitar licks!).

They go for pure swamp-blues in "The Girl's No Good" - terrific guitar/sax harmonic interplay here - and jivin' jump blues for "Scurry Like a Rat" before the Slim Harpo-like title track where they swap instruments so Luke can play guitar, Trevor takes up the harp and guest Victor Mendez sits in on stand-up bass. The gang stomps through the slide-blues of "Blue-Eyed Trouble" before closing with the sweet, Stax-styled ballad "Close Your Eyes".

I love the Howlers' blend of blues, soul and R'n'B that sounds like it could have come out of the Stax hit factory of the 60's, but also is fresh'n'exciting. Everyone here is high class - they are terrific players but no one tries to do more than what the song needs. Dig this and definitely see them live where they can stretch out a bit more, let go and really wail. In the meantime, this is another great representation of their sound.

The Unwieldies, Melanie and the Midnite Marauders at the Huntridge Tavern, Saturday May 12, 2018


The Unwieldies are celebrating the release of their third release, No Secrets Here, and Melanie and the Midnite Marauders were honored to be asked to open their release show at one of our favorite watering holes, the Huntridge Tavern. Despite some initial technical issues, we had a great time singin'n'swingin' our songs of unrequited love'n'drinkin'! 


(MMM photo by woman-about-town, Nikki Ruffling)

The Unwieldies never fail to deliver a fine, fun, and professional set of their own brand of singer-songwriter/folk/Americana/whatever-the-heck-ya-wanna-call-it. Superior playing all around - Jack on violin, Richard on dobro, Rob on stand-up and Dani on guitar - and Dani's voice is sweet'n'pure'n' powerful and Rob provides a nice counterpoint with his edgier vocals. They went through songs from all of their records along with their own interpretations of tunes like Cohen's "Everybody Knows", Costello's "Veronica", Michael Jackson's "Billy Jean" (!), U2's "Still Haven't Found" and even Roxy Music's "More Than This"! Eclectic tastes indeed from this quartet! They were joined by a friend on banjo (I believe this was Eric, who played on the new record) for a couple of tunes, as well. Always a pleasure - see them whenever ya can and pick up their CD's!






Friday, May 11, 2018

X__X, The Psyatics, Stagnetti's Cock, Action Cat at the Dive Bar, Thursday May 10, 2018


Legendary Rocket From the Tombs bassist Craig Bell reached out to me about a Thursday night show for one of the bands he is currently working'n'touring with, another Ohio 70's art-punk legend, X___X. Thankfully, we were able to work out a suitable arrangement for them at the Dive Bar (thanks, Nate!) and Vegas once again hosted a group that many people around the world can only dream of seeing.

Opening the evening was locals Action Cat, a new (apparently) punk rock trio that was plagued with problems during their short set - lots of tuning, drinking water and other distractions in between songs. The sound was generally fast punk, but with some tempo'n'time changes to make it interesting and with female, screaming vocals. We'll see what this team evolves into.


Local stalwarts Stagnetti's Cock were up next, with their brand of goofball punk rock (songs like "Nuns Having Fun", "Jack Daniels" and "Beer, Sex and Satan", "Fuck Our Drummer") with some 70's rock influences. Great guitar sound (even through a borrowed guitar), April is becoming confident on the bass (she's now also playing in the Negative Nancys), the drummer somehow plays in a banana suit and Joe does some impressive whistling in their pseudo Spanish song, "Felipe".



Of course, I always dig seeing my pals, the Psyatics and they were the first band I thought of to play with X___X due to their mix of noise, punk, and garage. Their set was short'n'strong, with covers like "Two Timing Touch", "Pigs" and "Gonna Find Me a Cave" mixed with their intense originals like "Gentlemen of Four Outs". Glad that they were able to join the fun this evening!





I think that "unpredictable" is one of the best ways to describe X___X and, as with any band of extreme personalities, you never know what you're going to get. The last time I saw them, singer/guitarist/founder (and ex-electric eels) John Morton spent the majority of the set in an extended monologue complaining about this'n'that. Thankfully, this evening we were treated to more music than anything else, but that isn't to say that there wasn't performance art elements to the set. John opens the set by creating a tin foil hat for himself and then making a tumultuous clatter with his theremin. He occasionally traded his Gibson Firebird guitar for a Coral Sitar, he made a call on his cell phone at one point, he cut a steel pipe into several segments (no context to this action that happened between songs) and every once in a while he would again make the theremin bellow'n'blare when he wasn't wrenching tortured sounds from the Firebird. There were some portions of the set that reminded me of Half Japanese, there were some almost free jazz stylings, some early punk (one tune even reminded me of the Gizmos' "Pumpin' to Playboy") and some great covers from Blue Cheer and fellow Ohio natives, the Pagans. Craig provided ferociously heavy bass lines and sang a couple of numbers, as did second guitarist (and founding member) Andrew (who also added some appropriately turbulent guitar clamor), while drummer Rich Rodriguez smashed'n'crashed in a Monks-like manner. They closed with a number dedicated to their hometown in which they derided the R'n'R Hall of Fame while chanting "Cleveland Sucks", as an answer to Ian Hunter, apparently.

As it happens in Las Vegas, especially on a Thursday night, the bar was sparsely attended, but those that were there were treated to a spectacle that they are not likely to find anywhere else! Thank you again to the Dive Bar for taking a chance on some wild mania and thank you to X___X for making this a stop on your tour. They are playing a number of dates on the west coast, so see them if they come to your town!
















Thursday, May 10, 2018

recommended gigs

Thursday May 10 - Ohio legends X___X (ex-members of electric eels and Rocket From the Tombs) at the Dive Bar

Friday May 11 - Zach Ryan's Wanderers at the Bunkhouse

Saturday May 12th - the Unwieldies record release party with Melanie and the Midnite Marauders at the Huntridge Tavern\Saturday May 12 -Dillinger Block Party 3:00pm with Sandy Nelson, the All Togethers, Same Sex Mary, Andy Frasco, the Junkyard Dogs, Total Ghost

Friday May 18 - the Unwieldies at the Dillinger

Saturday May 19 - the New Waves at the Golden Tiki
Saturday May 19 - Ramones night at the Double Down with Jerk!, Better Broken, Three Rounds and DJ Atomic

Sunday May 20 - the Rhyolite Sound at the Bunkhouse!

Monday May 21 Thee Swank Bastards at the Golden Tiki

Wednesday May 23 Thee Swank Bastards at the Space and the Double Down!

Saturday May 26 - the Dead Boys with the Schizophonics at Backstage Bar and Billiards
Saturday May 26 - Shanda and the Howlers record release show at the Sand Dollar

Sunday May 27 - Fuzz Solow, Sector 7-G, Struck Nerve at Evel Pie

Monday May 28 Thee Swank Bastards at the Golden Tiki

Wednesday May 30 Thee Swank Bastards at the Double Down

Tuesday June 5 - Goldtop Bob at the Sand Dollar

Friday June 8 - the Unwieldies with Le Dominiki at the Huntridge

Friday June 29 - the Psyatics, Illicitor, Water Landing and Better Broken at the Double Down

Saturday Aug 25 - Lita Ford at the Cannery

Thursday Sept 6 - Sunday Sept 9 - the Las Vegas Tiki Weekender at the Thunderbird Motel with Thee Swank Bastards, Durango 66, Franks'n'Deans and more

Friday Sept 7 - Hot Tuna at Brooklyn Bowl

Saturday Oct 27, 2018 - the Gentlemen of Four Outs at the Bunkhouse

What have I forgotten? Lemme know